Portugal is a part of the Iberian Peninsula that is bordered to the east and north by Spain. The Portuguese territories include the Azores and Madeira islands in the Atlantic.
Portugal is mainly a flat land broken up by rocky mountain ranges. On the broad coastal plains, farmers grow a wide range of crops including wheat, rice, almonds, olives and corn. Three great rivers, the Douro, Tagus and Gaudiana flow across the country.
The many streams that flow down from them are dammed to provide hydroelectric power. In their valleys, vineyards abound and produce Portugal’s famous wines. One third of the land is covered in cork oak, a valuable export product in Portugal.
Here are the top ten not to be missed places in Portugal.
Lisbon – Oceanario de Lisboa
Located in the capital city of Lisbon, a visit to the Oceanario de Lisboa is a wonderful experience for those who are curious of marine species.
The marine park and the huge aquarium are well thought out. A single double-height central basin is enclosed by the large windows convex that allows both the ground floor and the first floor views of the ecstatic marine life and fish species collected there.
At the ground floor, the underwater effect is a memorable experience as sharks, sunfish, stingrays, huge groupers, moon fish, dorado, etc. can be seen in their specially recreated habitat.
The low lighting makes it even more impressive. The undersea kingdom scene is highly recommended for lovers of wild marine life and for parents who want to make their children discover the beauty of the sea.
In the other sections of the oceanarium there is a detailed construction of the major marine ecosystem in the Antarctic. On this side tourists flock and watch as cute penguins dive.
There is another section dedicated to showing how the otters, puffins, colorful jellyfish, giant octopus, moray eels and seahorses survive in the ocean. The sea turtle section is an original concept and big turtles can be seen swimming under a transparent floor or over the heads of its visitors.
A visit is certainly interesting for the young and old with special educational and informative sections aimed at its younger visitors.
Gulbenkian Museum (Museu Calouste Gulbenkian)
Set in a pleasant garden of oriental inspiration that deserves a walk, the Gulbenkian Foundation hosts airy rooms with artifacts of various types and ages.
The entrance to the park in front of the museum creates a separation between the before and after sections.
A little sterile but at the same time it sends the idea that you are entering into something that is outside of time and space.
This museum could be anywhere in the world, but just inside it captures the passion of those who wanted it. Inside you will find the collection of a dedicated antique enthusiast.
Portuguese and a man of genius, incredibly rich and who preferred to eventually share his passion with anyone who has the culture and sensitivity to appreciate little masterpieces (in the sense of small size, almost all of the objects may decorate a private residence).
If you decide to visit Lisbon, come and spend half a day here. It is an invitation to enjoy the beauty of art and its different artistic sensibilities, a peek into a forgotten era and cultural history.
You can also dine indoors or outdoors in the adjacent bar-cafeteria – with tasty offerings or drink a coffee or tea.
Guia – Zoomarine Algarve
Dolphins are exceptional animals and if you want to have the rare chance to hug, swim, kiss and dance with them visit the Zoomarine Algarve in the city of Guia. The experience lasts 90 minutes at a reasonable cost with the inclusive entry into the marine theme park and access to a variety of animal shows, swimming pools, water slides (Hara-kiri) and exciting water games.
There is a tour guide that will explain how dolphins must survive and what everyone must know about these mythical mammals. The amusement ride called the ‘’ Dolphin Emotions” (dolphins swimming with other dolphins in small groups) and photo opportunity (with your own camera) beside one always leave happy smiles for the kids and adults.
The best experience was swimming with the dolphins, to touch them and to share an amazing time with them.
The pirate show is equally funny too. The bird show and the sea lions spectacle are an ideal family day out adventure.
The signs and audio explanations come in three languages, Portuguese, Spanish and English. The 30 minute 3D movie about the giant turtles is interesting.
There is a giveaway at the entrance gate per person that consists of a towel and flip flops with the logo of the park. Elsewhere in the grounds of the park is a mixture of amusement park and zoo with a modest sized aquarium and some basic water sports attractions.
The park has lockers but charges per hour although it is advisable to get one because you can get wet in almost all shows including the 3D movie.
Porto City – Ponte D. Luis I Bridge
The Ponte D. Luis I Bridge is an extraordinary structure built by the French engineer named Theophile Seyrig (an acknowledged student of the famous Gustave Eiffel) which opened in the year 1886.
It is an important iron bridge that connects the two banks of the Douro River and towering above.
From the top you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city. It has two floors, the lower traffic passes cars, trucks etc… on the top floor it has a modern subway line and a railed pedestrian access platform.
Both are highly recommended especially the upper access because the view of the
down below is spectacular. From this bridge, there is a view of the city and the houses which stands very close to the river.
The bridge is usually crowded and teeming with tourists. Pedestrians can walk on a narrow path on the left and right on the edge of the bridge over its safe metal plates.
They are only separated by a pair of metal pegs from the center of the bridge. At night it gets even more beautiful with all the lights and with the two banks of the river that is full of people admiring the bridge in all its grandeur. It is definitely one of the most symbolic points of the city of Porto.
To admire its splendor it is wise to take the boat cruise tour along the River Douro.
The river tour lasts about 45 minutes and it is worth it. The cruise allows you to observe the six bridges over the Douro and get to the inward mouth of the river.
It is truly a sight to behold as the boat pass under the bridge and look at the breathtaking Ponte D. Luis Bridge along with colorful houses on the riverbanks that are ready to be photographed.
While sailing the river, you can admire the various cellars of the Villa Nova and the facades of some churches such as that of St. Francis, the park of the palace of crystal and cross the last bridge near the mouth of the Douro River.
You will see a beautiful valley with the two sides literally covered with vineyards which descend towards the steep banks of the river.
At every turn, the landscape changes as a function of light and color leaving visitors in awe. To have a good idea, take the brief stop over at the vineyards of the Langhe and explore their well stocked wine cellars and you will find the most important retailers of the local wine at a low price.
Lagos City – Ponta da Piedade
A tour to the city of Lagos is not complete if a visit to the fantastic Ponta da Piedade is not fully experienced. The erosion forming caves in the cliffs that plunge into the tranquil sea of blue and green colors is perfect and indescribable.
It is a short distance from Lagos and is easily accessible by car.
From the top you can dominate the reefs, numerous cliffs and golden beaches but it certainly is much more impressive when seen from the sea. You go down a long staircase and there is a small landing where you climb aboard one of the many boats that are available to tourists.
The boatman will take you to a magical world of caves, rocks from fanciful names associated with forms that resemble its figure like the camel and the elephant with small sandy coves accessible only by sea. You can sail around the stacks and to the numerous rocks.
Take a walk to the top of the rocks from which you can take many pictures and admire the vast presence of the ocean. The asking price for the tour is extremely limited and you will see what you will see what you must not definitely miss when in Lagos.
Funchal City – Quinta do Riacho
If you are in the islands of Madeira you can not miss the Quinta do Riacho and the horseback riding experience in the fields of Funchal City. The route is tedious and demanding but once at the top the view is breathtaking. Along the way you can enjoy the coolness of the mountains and the beautiful flora of the
(which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The horse owners Apollo and Venus are two lovely people and will put you immediately at ease. They are very pleasant to talk to and very fond of their work and their animals.
The tour begins in the stable located high on the mountain where they give instruction on how to hold, pull the reins, care and handle the horses which are extremely docile and tame.
Children can enjoy the ride under a controlled supervision by the trained horse handlers. The riding tour leaves in groups of ten with each handler guiding the way and the horses in the forest.
On a good weather you can admire the views and the wonderful experience at the various vantage points of the forest mountain. After the ride you have the chance to self care of the horse and feed them in their stables.
Vilamoura City – Vilamoura Marina
The Vilamoura Marina has everything a visitor wants to see and experience.
It is a promenade complex with wide flower gardens, famous villas and hotels and an elegant marina that is surrounded by nice signature shops and fine dining restaurants.
Enjoy a romantic walk along the boats after dining and admire the opulence and wealth that seems to rule the atmosphere of the place with the presence of the huge luxury yachts docked along its port.
Albufeira – Parque Aventura
If you want a day full of fun and adventure the Parque Aventura is the place to be when in Albufeira. You spend a good time in the outdoors and enjoy every moment.
At a reasonable entrance price you have the chance to run in all 4 of its tracks for as many times as you wanted. There are obstacle races built for kids and adults, rappelling area, zip line adventure from tree to tree, radical canopy games, and nature paintball with lots of staff to guide and assist you.
The park provides great fun for family bonding moments. Those who do not want to venture into the pathways or the adventures may take advantage of the beautiful scenery, the shadow of the great tree tops and even the birds singing.
Cascais City – Praia de Rainha
The Praia de Rainha is a small beach surrounded by traditional white houses that is located near the town center and next to the local market. The Praia is a quiet beach with no waves and ideal for families with little children.
On weekdays it is intimate and confined but on weekends it becomes crowded with tourists and the whole place magically transforms into a beautiful esplanade with the cold and splendid weather of Portugal.